Why do some teams always get so few yellow cards?
By Tony Attwood
Apparently, the loss to Everton is very bad news indeed for Arsenal as it wasn’t only a defeat, but it was a defeat that allowed all the rest of the league teams to see how to beat Arsenal. If Everton can do it everyone can, and Arsenal will just let it happen, at least according to the Daily Mirror.
They argue that “Everton’s power in midfield overwhelmed [Arsenal] and the organisation at the back negated the visitors’ ability to find space around the box.”
As a result, “this was a bad defeat for Mikel Arteta’s side because it shows others how to not only frustrate them, but to get at them too. On another day, Calvert-Lewin could have had a hat trick, and that is a huge concern for Arsenal’s their young manager.” (The grammatical gibberish is the Mirror’s style, not mine).
But there is a particular problem here because it suggests that Everton have seen this approach, and can utilise it – along with every other club that has a technical director watching the match. Meanwhile poor, sorry Arsenal won’t think of any way to overcome it. Arsenal, in fact, has the dumbo management while everyone else employs experts.
Which is a bit of a strange way to look at things given that Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the league with over half the season gone and a game in hand.
But let’s consider something else: yellow cards.
Now we know that referees in the PL will not give yellow cards to players of Manchester City or Liverpool – indeed it has been like this for years. The media of course tend to ignore this oddity, so we thought we’d have a look.
The table below shows the number of yellow cards for Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and in the final column the club with the highest number of yellow cards that season
|Season||Manchester City||Liverpool||Arsenal||Top club|
|2014/15||77 (4th)||66 (11th)||69 (9th)||Sunderland (94)|
|2015/16||61 (8th)||61 (7th) (A)||40 (20th)||Aston Villa (75)|
|2016/17||71 (11th) (B)||54 (19th)||68 (13th)||Watford (84)|
|2017/18||59 (10th)||44 (19th)||57 11th)||West Brom (73)|
|2018/19||44 (19th)||38 (20th)||72 (4th)||Watford (77)|
|2019/20||60 (15th)||38 (20th)||86 (1st) (C)||Arsenal (86)|
|2020/21||46 (19th)||40 (20th)||47 (17th)||Sheffiled Utd (73)|
|2021/22||42 (20th)||50 (18th)||60 (13th)||Leeds (101)|
|2022/23||22 (19th=)||22 (19th=)||34 (13th)||Fulham (54)|
- (A) Klopp joined 8 October 2015
- (B) Guardiola joined 1 February 2016
- (C) Areta joined in December 2019
We can see from the Manchester City column that after a year and a quarter with Guardiola, they went from being an average yellow card team to a team that is mostly 19th or 20th in the yellow card table, year after year.
With Liverpool, we can see that after one year of Liverpool with Klopp, they went from being a mid-range yellow card team to a team that hardly gets cards at all. Again year after year.
With Arsenal it was clear that the board never gave Emery a fulsome understanding of how refereeing works in the Premier League. Eventually it was down to Arteta to solve the problem, and he adopted dramatic means in his first full season.
However, Arteta then made replacing the team a priority, bringing in young players who have not fully adopted the “no yellows” approach of Manchester City and Liverpool. Whether that is because of a failure of the manager, or a refusal of the PGMO to be manipulated further, we can’t really say. Maybe it was a difficulty in changing the newcomers into “defend without tackling” players…
But what is utterly remarkable is that year on year, Manchester City and Liverpool have still managed to avoid getting yellow cards, ensuring that they normally get only half the number of cards that the most penalised clubs get.
Now, this can have an impact because already we can see a collection of clubs with more than one player in the top 20 list of yellow card offenders. Fulham and Manchester United have three such players, Brighton, Palace, Newcastle and Tottenham have two each. Suspensions will follow.
Overall, this season looks like a continuation of all the rest. Arsenal are 13th in the yellow card table, Liverpool are 19th, Manchester City 20th.
Which raises the question, how can Liverpool ensure that they are not getting yellow cards year after year, irrespective of where they are in the league and who they have in the team?
In 2019/20 Liverpool won the league and were bottom in terms of yellow cards. Today they are 10th in the league and still equal bottom (with Manchester City) in terms of yellow cards.
Indeed it all just seems rather unlikely that two teams can always be bottom of the table in terms of getting yellow cards, no matter where they are in the league. But I’m sure there is a good explanation. I just can’t quite think of it at the moment.
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